Grady had always known me, even though she hadn’t known all the things I’d done. She knew my heart better than I did, as cliche at that sounds. It was Grady that taught me that we aren’t the sum of our actions, or even the sum of our intentions. “We are greater than what we wish we are, and less than what we think we are.” When she said it, I must have made a face. She walked up to me so fast and deliberate, I braced for the inevitable slap to the face I anticipated. Instead, she grabbed me so intensely and kissed me with a passion I’d never felt from her before. “We’ll never fully understand or define God’s love in this lifetime, honey. Don’t knock it. Miracles can’t be explained. He gave me you. He forgives and heals all things. He pumps your heart and breaths life into you every second. Put that in your brain and mull it over until you go crazy. Then give in and let go, my darling.”
I had accepted that Grady was a ferocious Christian about five minutes into our first meeting. It surprised and confused me that such a gorgeous package of anomalies, walking around on two sexy legs and taking an interest in a friendship with me, could exist in the world … could survive in Fingerbone. I would come to understand that she defined the place. Opinionated, self-reliant, bad-asses lived in Fingerbone. Sure, there were a handful of socialite-wannabes, crotchety old coots, rednecks, and a few even fit the description “dregs of society.” But for the most part, townsfolk had two things you could always count on: curiosity and friendliness. Pretty harmless features, attractive even, if you have nothing to hide.
It wasn’t until Grady leaned into me one day at the river, whispered the punchline to a joke she was telling me, and then caressed the laugh-lines she’d created with her hands that I realized. I didn’t have to hide from her. She was one of only two in town that had managed to make me laugh since I’d been there. I enjoyed her company, her smell, her mannerisms, her eyes. But I believed her interest in me strictly sisterly, and had self-talked myself batty not to screw up this great friendship by scaring her. I tried to tame my attraction to her and made no inappropriate advances. So when her adoring fingers silenced my giggle, and her lips traveled to my fading smile, my confusion and cautiousness departed, and I fell.
I fell first in love, and then literally into the river. If you know my past, neither makes any sense. I’m not usually at a loss for grace and balance. It was a huge part of my profession at one point. As for love, you have to understand. What I used to do … it would have been like a librarian who couldn’t read, or a mechanic allergic to grease. But Grady and I, we were clumsy like two new colts loping about on spindly legs. She opened the door to all we could have, and we suddenly figured out we had brought a teacup to a well the size of the ocean. That splash helped connect us for eternity though. Eternity minus a bullet.
Later in her living room, as we were warming up next to her wood burning stove, I asked her what she was thinking when she kissed me. I expected her to say, “I wasn’t,” or something that meant there was still some pondering happening. Instead, she’d reminded me of our first conversation.
“I was thinking about what you said when we first met. ‘People aren’t always what they seem, Ma’am.’ Poetic and ironic. I was looking at the scars on your neck after you asked me about Fred Tanner. When you said that, I looked into your eyes and those words stirred my heart more about you than Fred. I wanted to know what made you tick.”
“I thought you just wanted to preach to me.” This made her laugh and give me a little shove.
“I wanted you to know what make me tick.”
You know the rest. The warmth, the light flickering in her eyes, the words and how they purred softly into my emotional wounds … we didn’t make love that night. We held each other, snuggled while fully clothed, and felt the power we had to heal and protect one another, even in our sleep.